From its very beginning, Belco has worked to improve the quality of its coffees since for us this is the only way to develop the sector and offer in the market coffees in line with the positioning of craft roasters: coffees with a history, that are traceable and innovative.
With Belco’s Ethiopia agency, we are putting this philosophy into practice, beginning this work in the heart of a terroir where it all began for us: the region of Anfilloo in the Wallagga.
Jacques introduces you to the first part of the work carried out this year in this reagion with our “Anfilloo Quality” project.
Torban Anfilloo: a long-term partner
We have now been working for two years with the union of cooperatives in Anfilloo: Torban Anfilloo. We were their first export customer in 2015/16, the year in which Torban Anfilloo obtained an export licence. This relationship is actually based upon a long-standing relationship as Belco has been buying coffee in Anfilloo for 10 years.
The 2015/16 harvest was of good quality for fully-washed coffees but disappointing for natural coffees, which were all grades 3 or 4. Therefore we decided to get further involved with the cooperatives to produce grade 1 or 2 natural coffees and improve fully-washed coffees.
To carry out this transition, we worked with Marjorie Canjura, Salvadorian agronomist and coffee consultant, who trained the producers. We then launched a programme to improve quality, beginning with picking and harvesting red cherries.
Training for quality
Marjorie came in Autumn 2016 to launch the foundations of an organisation with the aim of correcting the issues encountered with the previous harvest.
- Improving picking for better quality cherries harvested,
- Improving the quality of the African beds,
- Raising awareness about the issues surrounding the drying of natural coffees,
- Reviewing the basics of the fully-Washed methods,
- Managing and preserving traceability during the different stages of cherry processing,
- Implementing a system of a weight-averaged collection system according to the quality of the cherries.
This final point is an essential part of the progress and development of quality in the Ethiopian coffee sector. It’s completely revolutionary for the sector: no longer buying coffee cherries simply by weight but by quality is key for a more consistent quality and to have better control of processing in order to work conscientiously. If we want to make a comparison, this is exactly what happened in the milk industry with payment by the litre compared to by fat content.
“Red cherries” programme
Training for better quality is not sufficient alone; we must also invest in producers to obtain better quality. After Marjorie’s arrival, we signed a contract before the harvest for 2 containers:
- one container of grade 1 fully-washed coffee (Dulli, Suddi, Henna, Wabaa)
- one container of grade 1 natural coffee (Dulli, Henna, Yarer, Wabaa).
An advance of 50,000 USD was made for the 2016/2017 harvest, enabling the launch of our “red cherries” quality programme. The aim of this was to provide better pay for the quality of the cherries harvested by producers.
Better price for better quality
We achieved for the first time lots of natural grade 1 from Anfilloo.
To make lots of natural grade 1, 90% of cherries must be at optimum maturity. From 95% of mature cherries, an extra bonus of 2 ETB/kg (=9 USD cents/kg) is paid directly to the producer. With between 5 and 6kg of cherries needed to obtain 1 kilo of green coffee, this effort represents 50 USD cents/kg paid directly to the producer. This programme allows us to involve everybody in this endeavour for better quality.
With this bonus we have had to make a strict inventory of the deliveries of each farmer and to control its quality. After being trained by Marjorie, Shambé from Belco’s Ethiopian agency spent two months helping cooperatives during the harvest.
Preparing the future: forest coffees
In order to continue the work carried out this year and install virtuous practices in the long term, our task for the next season will be to consolidate what has already been done and continue to strive to improve the entire chain.
Wallagga is one of the original coffee areas in Ethiopia and the area of Anfilloo is brimming with beautiful forests that are home to endangered trees such as aningeria adolfi frederici. We wish to take this work on improving quality even further, by highlighting what makes the Anfilloo terroir unique.
We have decided to promote the agro-forestry techniques with our “forest coffee” project which we will shortly be presenting. The aim of this is to encourage farmers to produce using the agro-forestry techniques that they have honed over the centuries and to perfect certain practices to produce flawless quality.
All the coffees concerned by our quality improvement actions in Anfilloo (Henna, Suddi, Dulli, Yarer) fall within the scope of this brand, which we can’t wait to show you for the Coffee en primeurs (discover the event here).
Jacques, for Belco’s Ethiopia agency